Smith, John (1754-1837) (DNB00)

SMITH, Sir JOHN (1754–1837), general, colonel-commandant royal artillery, was born at Brighton, Sussex, on 22 Feb. 1754. He entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich on 1 March 1768, and received a commission as second lieutenant in the royal artillery on 15 March 1771. In 1773 he went to Canada. He was at Fort St. John when the American generals Schuyler and Montgomery attacked it in September 1775. The fort was garrisoned by some seven hundred men under Major Preston, who, after a gallant defence, surrendered it on 3 Nov. Smith, who had been twice wounded, became a prisoner of war.

Smith was exchanged in January 1777, and joined the army under the command of Earl Percy at Rhode Island, and shortly after was transferred to the army at New York under the command of Sir William Howe. He took part in the operations to draw Washington from his defensive position on the Rariton river. He accompanied Howe's force to the Delaware and Chesapeake, and was present at the battle of Brandywine on 11 Sept. 1777, at the capture of Philadelphia on 26 Sept., at the battle of Germanstown on the Delaware on 3 Oct., at the attack on Fort Island on 22 Oct., and at the siege of Mud Island and capture of it on 16 Nov. The last achievement completed the removal of all obstacles to the free navigation of the Delaware by the royalists. In May 1778 Smith was engaged in the operations for the destruction of American men-of-war in the Delaware river, driving back the Americans at Bill's Island, and burning the Washington (32) and the Effingham (28), with fifty-four smaller vessels. He took part in the battle of Monmouth or Freehold, under Sir Henry Clinton, on 27 June, and marched with the army the following day to Novesink, near Sandy Hook, where it arrived on the 30th. Thence the fleet under Lord Howe conveyed Smith and his companions to New York in July.

Smith was promoted to be first lieutenant on 1 July 1779. On 11 Feb. 1780 he arrived with Sir Henry Clinton's force from New York at the harbour of Edisto, on the coast of South Carolina. The islands of St. James and St. John, which stretch to the south of Charleston harbour, were seized at once; but it was not until 1 April that Clinton broke ground, and Smith's duties as a gunner became heavy. On 11 May Charleston surrendered. In September Smith went with the army to Charlottesburg in North Carolina, and accompanied it in its retreat to South Carolina at the end of the following month. Early in 1781 he moved with Cornwallis towards the borders of the Carolinas, and later into Virginia, where he took part in the battle of Guildford on 15 March, and in the other actions of the campaign, which ended in the British occupation of Yorktown. He was engaged in the defence of Yorktown in October, and on its capitulation on the 19th of the month again became a prisoner of war. He was, however, given his parole, and returned to England.

Smith was promoted to be captain-lieutenant on 28 Feb. 1782. In 1785 he went to Gibraltar, and was stationed there for five years. He was promoted to be captain on 21 May 1790, and appointed to command the 6th company of the 1st battalion royal artillery at home. On 1 March 1794 he was promoted to be brevet major, and regimental major on 6 March 1795. In the latter year he joined the army under Lord Moira at Southampton as major in command of the royal artillery drivers, and as second in command of the artillery under Brigadier-general Stewart for foreign service. Towards the end of 1795 he went to the West Indies in the expedition under the command of Sir Ralph Abercromby [q. v.] He took part in the attack on the island of St. Lucia and in the siege of Morne Fortuné (28 April to 24 May 1796), when the French capitulated, and in the attack and capture of the island of St. Vincent on 8 and 9 June of the same year. He commanded the royal artillery at the capture of Trinidad from the Spaniards (16 to 18 Feb. 1797), and at the unsuccessful attack on Porto Rico in March. He then commanded the royal artillery in the West Indies, the strength being thirteen companies; he was promoted regimental lieutenant-colonel on 27 Aug. 1797, when he returned to England in consequence of ill-health.

In September and October 1799 Smith commanded the artillery of the reserve under the Duke of York in the expedition to Holland. He took part in the battles of 2 and 6 Oct. near Bergen, was mentioned in despatches, and received the thanks of the commander-in-chief for his services. The convention of Alkmaar terminated operations, and Smith returned to England on 3 Nov. He was promoted to be regimental colonel on 20 July 1804, and the same year was appointed to the command of the royal artillery in Gibraltar. There he remained for ten years, and twice temporarily commanded the fortress. He was promoted to be brigadier-general on 6 May 1805, and major-general on 25 July 1810.

Smith returned home in 1814, was appointed colonel-commandant of a battalion of royal artillery on 3 July 1815, and was promoted to be lieutenant-general on 12 Aug. 1819. He was made a knight grand cross of the military Guelphic order on 10 Aug. 1831, for services in America, the West Indies, the Continent, and Gibraltar. On 27 Jan. 1833 he was transferred to the royal horse artillery as colonel-commandant, and was promoted to be general on 10 Jan. 1837.

Smith was three times shipwrecked during the course of his service, losing on each occasion every article of baggage. He died at Charlton, Kent, on 2 July 1837.

[Despatches; Royal Artillery Records; Royal Military Calendar; Duncan's History of the Royal Artillery; Stedman's Hist. of the American War, 2 vols. 4to, 1794; Cust's Annals of the Wars of the Eighteenth Century; Gent. Mag. 1837, ii. 531; Proceedings of the Royal Artillery Institution, vol. xv. pt. ii.; Kane's List of Officers of the Royal Artillery; Ludlow's War of American Independence.]

R. H. V.